UN: Possible war crimes by both sides in Gaza

Independent UN investigators find that Israel and Palestinian groups committed serious abuses during 2014 conflict.

An independent UN commission of inquiry has found that both Israel and Palestinian groups committed serious abuses that could amount to “war crimes”.

The commission released its report on the 50-day conflict on Monday.

“The extent of the devastation and human suffering in Gaza was unprecedented and will impact generations to come,” New York Judge Mary McGowan Davis, the chair of the commission, said in a statement.

The report decried the “huge firepower” used in Gaza, with Israel launching more than 6,000 air strikes and firing 50,000 artillery shells during the 50-day operation.

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“The commission is concerned that impunity prevails across the board for violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law allegedly committed by Israeli forces,” the report said.

“Israel must break with its recent lamentable track record in holding wrongdoers accountable, not only as a means to secure justice for victims but also to ensure the necessary guarantees for non-repetition.

“With regard to Palestinian armed groups, the commission has serious concerns with regard to the inherently indiscriminate nature of most of the projectiles directed towards Israel by these groups and to the targeting of civilians, which violate international humanitarian law and may amount to a war crime.”

Gaza in ruins

The independent investigators also condemned Palestinian armed groups for executing those suspected of collaborating with Israel.

The commission, composed of chair Davis and Senegalese lawyer and human rights expert Doudou Diene, was launched a year ago at the request of the Palestinians.

“We must remember that the victims are not just numbers … they are individual people,” Davis said as she released the report in Geneva.

Al Jazeera’s James Bays, reporting from the UN headquarters in New York, said the report was “very damning” towards the Israeli government.

Al Jazeera’s Imtiaz Tyab, reporting from West Jerusalem, said that the report called on both sides to show political leadership and to cooperate with International Criminal Court investigators.

He said Israel immediately labelled the UN commission’s report as “morally flawed” and “grossly biased”.

A ceasefire last August ended 50 days of fighting between Gaza fighters and Israel.

Criticism of report

The UN has previously said that most of the 2,139 Palestinians killed in the conflict were civilians, while 66 Israeli soldiers, six Israeli civilians and one Thai national also died.

Israeli air strikes and shelling hammered the densely populated enclave dominated by the Hamas movement, causing widespread destruction of homes and schools.

Gaza fighters fired thousands of rockets and mortar bombs into Israel.

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Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, dismissed the report as “notoriously biased”, accusing Palestinian groups of “deliberately targeting civilians, while deliberately hiding behind Palestinian civilians”.

Israel had blocked access to Gaza and other areas of the occupied territories, when the UN made the request to carry out the investigation last year.

Gaza’s Hamas rulers also rejected the report, with Ghazi Hamad, a senior official, saying that its rockets and mortars were aimed at Israeli military sites, not at civilians.

Hamad also criticised the report, for what he said was a false balance between victims and killers.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies